As we enter into September (Olympic year, baby!) swimmers from across the country are preparing to launch themselves into a brand new season.
Here are some of the common mistakes athletes make in the water at the cusp of a new year of training and competition:
1. Not working the fundamentals.
Before you jump into working on getting back in shape and getting faster in the water, make sure that you are hammering down the basics.
And there is nothing more basic, and yet more critical, than swimming with the best technique you can.
The best time to improve those facets of your technique is not during Hell Week, or in the days leading up to your biggest meet of the year. It’s something that you should be working on from day one of your training.
Set up a foundation of excellent technique and proficiency in the water from the very beginning, and as training gets more difficult in the coming weeks and months it will be much easier to maintain that awesome form.
2. Not setting goals.
But even more important than setting goals for the end of the season and those big end-of-cycle competitions are laying out training goals.
Yup, training goals.
What are you doing to do on a daily and weekly basis that will help power you to the technical and physical condition necessary to achieve the awesome radness you want to achieve?
What are the routines and systems that you need to implement on a daily basis that will get you some serious amounts of success?
You know what you want to do at the end of the year…
Now write out what you have to do on a short term basis to get there.
3. Not being proactive about staying injury-free.
You and I both know how much being injured stinks.
Don’t wait to get injured to start doing something about being healthy this season.
All you need to do is spend a few minutes a day with your pre-hab to help lower the odds of you getting re-injured.
4. Not learning the lessons of the previous season.
The previous season can be a huge wealth of knowledge.
If you decide to sit down and take an honest look at the lessons it provides.
At the end of the day, there no two identical paths to success in the water. Through trial and error we each must come to learn what it is that works best for us.
The good news?
You can shorten the learning curve by reviewing the previous season’s results.
What didn’t work last season?
We tend to focus on the negative aspects of our swimming.
After all, it’s pretty black and white…
Either we achieved our goal, or we didn’t. And when we don’t, we tend to dwell on it.
It’s human nature to do this—we are hard-wired to place emphasis on the negative aspects as a defense mechanism. Use this tendency to focus on the bad stuff to break down the parts of your training that went below expectations.
Often times knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what you should be doing.
What did work?
Now here is the much funner part.
There are things you did last year that definitely worked. What were they?
There were stretches of time in your training, and moments in competition, where things went your way. Where the work and effort you invested paid off with wildly successful results.
Write out the circumstances that led to those quality performances and embed them into your training and competition moving forward.
In other words, turn down the suck from last year. And turn up the rad.
5. Not starting off the season with good habits.
Habits aren’t something you just switch on and off at your leisure. Good training habits in the pool are developed over time, with deliberate consistency and repetition.
Trying to install better habits in your training halfway through the training cycle just makes it harder to have them stick, as when you are burdened with physical and mental fatigue from heavy training your willpower struggles to keep up.
The time to hammer down those super excellent habits is at the beginning of the year, when you are mentally freshest.
Nutrition: Start off the year by packing healthy meals the night before so that you can lean on the habit when training gets tough.
Training habits: Let’s say you want to take your underwater dolphin kick to the next level. Start the season off by doing 4 dolphin kicks off every wall, so that when training ramps up, and the intensity and duration of your sessions increases you are prepared to carry your new UDK along with you.
Time Management: The schedule of a swimmer is no joke. Tack that on to the load of an academic schedule, and we’re taking a full load. You know that there are going to be stretches of time where your time will be at a full blown premium, so get in the habits from day one of running your schedule so that your schedule doesn’t end up running you.
Track your workouts: One of the easiest ways to improve your swimming this year is by writing out your workouts. Get into the habit of spending a couple minutes writing out and recording your progress at the beginning of the season, and it will give you a treasure trove of information that you can use to help guide your performance over the rest of the season.
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